"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” – Mark Twain.
I use those quotes to begin this blog, because it’s past time that we do something about poor medical care in Michigan prisons.
I’ll be releasing statistics this week showing that HFP has responded to more than 3,000 prisoner contacts already this year, a new record! And of those contacts, approximately 20% discuss claims of poor medical care.
Just in the past few days:
-Prisoner 1: I had a hip replacement, but my leg still hurts to the point I’m in tears. My hip still hurts, but healthcare has told me I don’t need therapy, and I walk with a limp because one leg is longer. Hurts so bad I can’t eat or sleep.
Prisoner 2: I had a stroke and was given physical therapy. Then I was transferred, and since I’ve been here I’ve been denied meds and physical therapy. (His enclosed accommodations order also demanded a walker, which he didn’t get!).
Prisoner 3 Complained of problems year and a half ago, was recently sent to a hospital ER, and the diagnosis: colon cancer. Said our consulting oncologist: This kills me. If she would have had proper access early-on, this could have been found sooner.
This stuff crosses our desk on a daily basis. We are blessed to have a medical consultant on our HFP team, and we use him almost every day of the week. He finally concluded last week: “I think the only thing worse in MDOC than medical is food service.” (That’s really bad!)
Health care in Michigan prisons is provided by Corizon, the nation's largest for-profit provider of correctional health services. It’s a company with a checkered history, and has been known to have contract battles in numerous other states, usually over quality-of-care concerns.
If the Michigan Department of Corrections refuses to do anything about this, if the state legislature is only concerned about the bottom line, if prisoner advocacy agencies want to just talk about the issue, maybe it’s time for David to meet Goliath.
HFP is the little guy in town, and our mode of operation fits into the guidelines offered by a Bible verse: …remember those in prison as if you were together with them.
Whether or not you agree with the Bible, the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees medical care for prisoners. Yet, says the National Journal of Health Care: Many inmates with a serious chronic physical illness fail to receive care while incarcerated.
Today, it feels to me like the ball’s in our court. Perhaps it’s time to listen to Dr. King!